Prehistoric Carnivore or Meat Eating Forests

About the prehistoric forests filled with meat-eating crinoids, description of the carnivorous plant like creatures.


Forests That Eat Meat. "Relic groves of the great meat-eating forests of 150 million years ago still thrive on the floors of deep, warm seas.

"These are made up of plant-animals--predacious trees with red blood and hearts--the crinoids. There are about 700 extant, compared to more than a thousand extinct, species. For a hundred million years they were among the ocean's dominant life forms. Fossil crinoids, or 'stone lilies,' make up great marble beds in both America and Europe. In 1934 the Smithsonian Johnson expedition dredged 19 species, including 2 not hitherto known to science, from the bottom of the great Puerto Rico Deep.

"The crinoids are highly developed animals, although they look like plants. They can by no means be considered as a form of life on the dividing line of the animal and vegetable worlds. Rather they are animals which have taken on the superficial appearance of plants. They are very highly specialized animals--so much so that there are few places in the world where they can survive in great numbers.

"In life they usually are brilliantly colored. Judging from those that are found on the sea bottoms today, one of the ancient meat-eating forests must have presented a very colorful spectacle of red, green, purple, and yellow 'blossoms.'

"Most of them live in deep water. There are free-moving varieties as well as those that are fixed to the bottom with stems like plants. Until recent years few were recovered in good condition because of the tendency of one of these plant-animals to break itself to pieces when agitated. When brought up from the bottom to the deck of a ship the crinoid would proceed to break off the featherlike arms which make up the blossoms. This was its natural defense reaction in the depths. Its way of escape when one of its arms was seized by a fish was to break it off. Then it could grow another quite easily. As a matter of fact, this is the way the crinoid grows--one of the most wasteful processes of growth in nature. It breaks off one arm and grows 2 instead; but it cannot increase the number of its arms without discarding an old one.

"Another difficulty is that the gorgeous colors of the meat-eating flowers are fast only in salt water. They fade rapidly in air, fresh water, or alcohol so that there can be only a fleeting impression of the true coloration."

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